Welcome to salary cap hell, Philadelphia: Flyers take Leighton off LTIR, put Laperriere on LTIR

The Flyers made a couple of moves today that likely flew under the radar for fans as they activated goaltender Michael Leighton off of LTIR and put injured forward Ian Laperriere on it with post-concussion syndrome issues. In order to get Leighton on to the 23-man active roster, the Flyers also put defenseman Matt Walker on injured reserve. While this is just arranging things so Leighton can rejoin the Flyers this week and the team rolls with three goaltenders on their NHL roster, the other implication in this applies to their salary cap.

The Flyers couldn’t activate Leighton until they cleared the cap room for him, so Laperriere  was the obvious choice since he’s been out all season long and doesn’t appear likely to return this year thanks to post-concussion syndrome. The seemingly simple salary juggling here isn’t all that it appears to be as SBN Philly’s Geoffrey Detweiler discusses at length today. After crunching the numbers and sifting through the legalese of the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, Detweiler came up with this conclusion as to why the Flyers are pretty boned right now under the salary cap. Get your abacus out to deal with some money issues.

The Flyers have been spending $4,071 more than the cap every day this year, but were able to do so because they had an LTIR cushion of $8,333 per day, due to Michael Leighton being on LTIR. With Leighton returning and Laperriere going on LTIR, they can now go over the salary cap by $6,272 per day. With the $4,071 in overages continuing – because nobody’s contract has been removed – the Flyers now can only increase their daily spending by $2,201.

The NHL’s league minimum salary for 2010-11 is $500,000. That’s equal to a $2,688 daily cap hit, or $487 more than the Flyers can afford.

With this move, the Flyers have effectively prevented themselves from being able to afford anybody not already on the roster. Not a problem, right? With Jody Shelley suspended for two games, if any forward gets the flu and cannot play in those games, the Flyers will have to dress Oskars Bartulis as the 12th forward. They can’t afford to call anybody up without making another move.

This puts the Flyers in a similar position that the Devils found themselves in earlier this year when they could only suit up the bare minimum (or less than that) number of players for a few games so they couldn’t be caught circumventing the salary cap.  As we’ve seen this year, regardless of how many players the Devils have been able to ice this year it hasn’t helped them win games. The Flyers have been doing much better than that this year and are near the top of the Eastern Conference but not having the flexibility to make moves when you need to hurts.

As it is, the Flyers will wait things out to see if Leighton can come back and work well before deciding on who goes as the third goalie. There’s no real need to have a third goalie on the roster. The hang up there is that both Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher have played well this year. Go figure, tough decisions will be hard to make. Of course if someone gets injured in goal in the meantime, they’re all set. Anywhere else on the ice and things get dicey fast. Wonder if the Flyers would like an advance on that boosted salary cap that’s supposed to happen next year.

Holtby ‘wasn’t as sharp as he can be,’ says Trotz

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Presidents’ Trophy winners once again in the regular season, the Capitals once again face an uphill climb if they are to advance beyond the rival Penguins and the second round of the playoffs.

What began with a strong first period for the Capitals in Game 2, albeit without a reward on the score board, faded into a frustrating 6-2 rout, as the Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 3 on Monday.

Braden Holtby was pulled after the second period. He gave up three goals on 14 shots, while his opponent at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant with 34 saves.

“He’ll tell you that he can be better. He’s a straight up guy and he will be. I was just trying to change the mojo,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz of his decision to sit Holtby.

“I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. So when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit there. That’s all. Braden’s our backbone. He has been all year. We’ve got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby.”

Now in a deep but not insurmountable hole against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals reportedly held a players’ only meeting following this latest defeat.

After failing to open the scoring in an otherwise dominant first period, Washington surrendered three goals in the second, as the Penguins broke it wide open with their transition game, led by two great plays from Sidney Crosby.

“We can’t get frustrated. I think that would be our biggest mistake is to get frustrated right now,” said T.J. Oshie, before expanding on the meeting between the players.

“It was things that people need to say and things that some people need to hear. We were very together with what we said. I don’t need to go into details. Sometimes in our game … you need to hear from your teammates more than your coach. And tonight was one of those nights.

“It was the players in here and what was said is what needed to be said.”

We’ll find out Monday if what was said actually has any impact on the ice.

Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again.

Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.